Why 2017 Was a Year to Celebrate

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Why 2017 Was a Year to Celebrate, Mauldin Economics, December 17, 2017

Death on the Run

  • “This year, the World Health Organization unveiled a new vaccine that’s cheap and effective enough to end cholera, one of humanity’s greatest-ever killers”
  • “Cancer deaths have dropped by 25% in the US since 1991, saving more than two million lives. Breast cancer deaths have fallen by 39%, saving the lives of 322,600 women”
  • “In July, UNAIDS revealed that for the first time in history, half of all people on the planet with HIV are now getting treatment, and AIDS deaths have dropped by half since 2005”
  • “Leprosy is now easily treatable. The number of worldwide cases has dropped by 97% since 1985, and a new plan has set 2020 as the target for eradicating the disease”
  • “And on November 17, WHO announced that global deaths from tuberculosis have fallen by 37% since 2000, saving an estimated 53 million lives”
  • Some of the greatest threats to human beings will be essentially under control within 10 years: Heart disease and arteriosclerosis will have mainstream cures; and there is reason to believe that cirrhosis of the liver will be largely cured, that the precursors to getting cirrhosis of the liver will be controlled, and the fatty liver disease that always precedes cirrhosis will not be allowed to proceed
    • Needless to say, if people ate better and drank less, we would get a big boost on these fronts
  • We are going to have a great need and for an increasing number of healthcare workers over the next 20 years; but at some point in the next 30 years, the need for acute healthcare and sickness medical staff is going to be reduced
    • At some point, society will make sure that everybody who wants it will be able to have a longer, healthier life

A Beautiful World

  • “Chile set aside 11 million acres of land for national parks in Patagonia, following the largest-ever private land donation from a private entity to a country”
  • “A province in Pakistan announced it has planted one billion trees in two years, in response to the terrible floods of 2015”
  • “Cameroon committed to restoring over 12 million hectares of forest in the Congo Basin, and Brazil started a project to plan 73 million trees, the largest tropical reforestation project in history”
  • “In 2017, the ozone hole over Antarctica shrank to its smallest size since 1988, the year Bobby McFerrin topped the charts with “Don’t Worry Be Happy”
  • US is the major supplier of wood for the US and all from renewable areas. We now have 9 billion more cubic feet of trees in the US than we did in 1953; that’s 50% more than we had 60 years ago; Europe and other areas of the world are seeing a real upturn in the growth of forests
  • In 1630, roughly half of the US was forest. Today, the figure is about 35%, but the bulk of that loss came during the 1800s; since 1900, we’ve seen overall growth in forests to the point that today we have 820 million acres covered in trees

Up From Poverty

  • “The International Energy Agency announced that nearly 1.2 billion people around the world have gained access to electricity in the last 16 years”
  • “In the last 3 years, the number of people in China living below the poverty line decreased from 99 million to 43.4 million. And since 2010, Chinese income inequality has been falling steadily”
  • “The US’ official poverty rate is now 12.7%, the lowest level since the end of the global financial crisis. And the child-poverty rate has reached an all-time low, dropping to 15.6%”

Endless Energy

  • “In the UK, the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, carbon emissions fell to the lowest levels since 1894; and on April 21 the country did not burn any coal, for the first time in 140 years”
  • “The cost of solar and wind power plummeted by more than 25% in 2017, shifting the global clean energy industry on its axis”
  • By 2030 at the latest, we will not be building any natural gas power plants, other than in areas that receive very little solar energy
  • “A new report from the EU said that between 1990 and 2016, the continent cut its carbon emissions by 23% while the economy grew by 53%”
  • The world’s biggest polluter, China, is beginning to get religion. They are recognizing the danger and discomfort of living in polluted cities and are struggling to get on top of the issue. They are shutting coal mines and planning to cut 1.3 million mining jobs. They are planning to spend $367 billion on renewable energy by 2020 and to make renewable energy 20% of China’s total energy supply by 2030

Better Life

  • “Saudi Arabia said women would no longer need male permission to travel or study. A few months later, women received the right to drive”
  • “New figures showed that the gender pay gap in the US has narrowed from 36% in 1980 to 17% today. For young women the gap has narrowed even further, and now stands at 10%”
  • “Global deaths from terrorism dropped by 22% from their peak in 2014, thanks to significant declines in four of the five countries most impacted: Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria”
  • “Rates of violent crime and property crime have dropped by around 50% in the US since 1990, yet a majority of people still believe they have gotten worse”
  • “Snow leopards have been on the endangered list since 1972. In 2017, they were taken off, as the wild population has now increased to more than 10,000 animals”
    • 15 years ago, we were worried about polar bears becoming extinct. There are now more polar bears than there were 10 years ago. We are almost back to where we were 20 years ago in some locations. They are not out of the woods yet but there is a lot of concerted effort to make sure the world doesn’t lose its polar bears
  • “A decrease in pollution of the Ganges brought Gangetic dolphins, one of the four freshwater dolphin species in the world, back from the brink of extinction”

Speaking of Water

  • We are using roughly the same amount of water in the US as we did back in 1970, but the population has grown by almost 50%
  • We are producing vastly more food, generating more hydroelectric energy, and doing more of all the other things that can only be done with water
  • Largest use of water is for the generation of thermoelectric power
  • This is the trend all over the developed world: more efficient use and better conservation of water
  • If you go to the EPA website, you find that carbon monoxide emissions are down 77% since 1990; lead in the air is down 99%; total nitrogen dioxide is down over 50%; particulate matter emissions are down on average about 44%; and sulfur dioxide is down 85% – and that’s just in the last 25 years
  • None of this means we are out of the woods. The nature of good is that bad can overcome it if we are not vigilant. We accomplished much this year, but there remains much to do, and reversing progress with regressive policies now makes no earthly sense

Image Source: Front Porch Interiors

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